WSU research studies how gravity in space affects the human brain


A NASA-funded Wichita State University research project will seek to understand how the human brain responds to gravity while in space.

The Kansas NASA EPSCoR Program recently awarded $127,600 to a multidisciplinary research group for the project titled “Development of a Neuro-Virtual Interface System to Evaluate Astronauts’ Cognitive Performance in Space.”

Researchers will design a neuro-virtual interface system that will evaluate and learn the human brain response in different gravity conditions, integrate neuro-robotic control algorithms for a virtual robotic limb and quadcopter, and perform offline and online testing on human subjects. It will use human brain signals to manipulate or control mechanical systems in a virtual environment.

Understanding human brain responses in different gravity conditions (Earth, International Space Station and Mars) plays an important role in astronauts’ ability to successfully perform mission tasks in space, says Jaydip Desai, assistant professor of biomedical engineering.

Along with Desai, the project team includes Aerospace Engineering Professor James Steck, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering Yimesker Yihun and scientists from the Neuroscience Laboratory at NASA Johnson Space Center and local company Brij Systems LLC.

WSU students will also play a key role in the research, which will include three graduate students and two undergraduate students from biomedical, aerospace and mechanical engineering disciplines at WSU.

The findings of this research will help to develop protocols for Human-Machine Interface both in space operations through brain-machine interface and after space missions for rehabilitation.

“This will play an important and unique role in establishing astronauts’ ability to successfully control robots and other mechanical systems,” Desai says. “It will also lay down a solid foundation to advance scientific knowledge and educate students in the field of neuro-robotics, human-machine interface, and artificial intelligence, and conduct experiments to ensure human safety and efficiency for future space missions.”

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